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Battling Butler

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Battling Butler
Lobby card
Directed byBuster Keaton
Written byAl Boasberg
Lex Neal
Charles Smith
Paul Gerard Smith
Based onBattling Butler
1922 musical play
by Stanley Brightman
Austin Melford
Produced byBuster Keaton
Joseph M. Schenck
StarringBuster Keaton
Sally O'Neil
Walter James
CinematographyBert Haines
Devereaux Jennings
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • September 18, 1926 (1926-09-18)
Running time
71 minutes
CountryUSA
LanguagesSilent film
English intertitles

Battling Butler is a 1926 American comedy silent film directed by and starring Buster Keaton. It is based on the 1923 musical Battling Buttler.

Plot

A bell introduces each "round" in the film.

Alfred Butler is a member of a wealthy family, but an embarrassment to his father: a slight, gentle young man, accustomed to ease and luxury. His father suggests a hunting and fishing trip to toughen him up. Alfred tells his valet "arrange it" and the valet agrees whilst putting he ash from Alfred's cigarette in an ashtray and passing it back, showing just how pampered Alfred is.

He sets off in his chauffeur driven Rolls Royce, towing a trailer of camping equipment. At the camp site the valet continues to pamper him, bringing his breakfast on a silver tray. In the very large tent Alfred is sleeping in a brass bed with a bearskin rug on the floor. He dresses smartly with a deerstalker and three-piece suit, and carrying a shooting stick. His valet carries a selection of shotguns.

They encounter a group of grouse, a racoon, a fox and a deer: Alfred cannot decide what to shoot. He holds the gun back to front and almost shoots a girl. She scolds them fiercely. As she walks off she is almost shot again.

Later he goes fishing sitting on a chair in the river, wearing customised waders. He spots a moorhen and fetches his shotgun to try to shoot it. Each time he is going to shoot it dives underwater. He ends up neck deep in the river as the girl canoes by and she takes him back to his tent.

She watches as the valet adds little hat decorations to the lamb cutlets he has prepared. Alfred has dressed for dinner. As they sit down and start the soup two men appear: her father and brother. Alfred asks if she has any more brothers or fathers. They chat until late and Alfred walks her home while the valet tidies up. He can't find his way back and she has to walk him home to his tent.

The next morning the valet pours a bath as Alfred reads the morning newspaper. There is an article in the paper about Alfred "Battling" Butler, a boxer. The valet comments "a prize fighter has taken your name sir". Alfre says "arrange to stop it". He then gets inspired tby the lovehearts column to marry the mountain girl and asks the valet to arrange that too. So he goes to ask. The brother and father are unimpressed until the valet cons them into thinking he is a boxer. Meanwhile Alfred practices proposal lines.

They meet and she seems to like him but asks when his next fight is. The valet convinces him to keep up the pretence.

He catches a train to go the fight and starts to worry. They join the audience to watch the fight and sit next to the manager and trainer. The Alabama Murderer fights Battling Butler. Butler wins but this upsets the valet's idea as he wanted to be able to fade into obscurity. Alfred looks at the engagement ring he has bought.

When the train gets back to the mountains a crowd cheer the wrong Battling Butler... the real one continues onward on the train. A band escorts them to the girl's house. They play the Wedding March and a wedding ceremony begins. However the newspaper announces a return match he asks the girl never to watch him fight. He drives off with the valet to the training camp.

Meanwhile the real Battling Butler checks into a hotel with his "wife" the hotel clerk is clearly suspicious. The wife wanders off while he trains and goes to the same dirt track where Alfred and the valet are trying to drive among the speeding local cars. She demands a lift as she has broken the heel off her shoe. Battling Butler observes as she is dropped off at the hotel. Alfred checks into the same hotel as "Alfred Butler and man".

Alfred goes to watch the training and stands next to Battling Butler's girlfriend. The boxer gets jealous. The mountain girl appears and Alfred has to pretend to be training. He joins the tail end of a running group. He tells the girl to go home but she wants to help him to train. Back at the hotel their rooms are opposite and she asks Alfred to plug her electric curling tongs into the light socket. He takes out the bulb to do this, Battling Butler sees this from outside and thinks the light going out means something else and bursts in, knocking Alfred off the chair he is standing on. He crawls out in the darkness.

The next day Battling Butler's girlfriend has a black eye. The woodland girl sits opposite her. A waiter comes out and puts a box of chocolates on the table between them "from Mr Butler". They argue as to who they are for. Alfred's valet asks Battling Butler to things and explain. However, this results in all parties agreeing Alfred must fight. A comedic training scene ensues. Then he goes on a training run with his new trainer and his valet.

At dinner his trainer takes his alcohol and big meal and replaces it with a plate of prunes and glass of milk.

The day of the fight arrives. A huge crowd is around the ring. They watch the first fight where a man gets a broken nose. His valet points outside to a waiting ambulance. The beaten boxer is placed on the dressing room floor on a stretcher. Alfred hides under the sheet. Alfred's wife arrives and hopes he wins as her father and brother have bet all their money on him. The valet locks her in a storeroom.

Alfred is greatly relieved when the actual boxer "Battling Butler" shows up, fights, and wins. The trainer explains that they would not throw away the championship just to get even... it was all a joke on Alfred. But the Battler does not let him off so lightly and starts fighting him in the dressingroom ... the door opens during the fight and his wife and valet watch. Seeing his wife's anguish he starts to fight back. Eventually Alfred wins and the trainer has to pull him off. Who was that his wife asks and he has to confess. They walk down the street with him in his boxing shorts... plus top hat and cane.

Origins

Like Keaton's earlier Seven Chances, the film is an adaption of a stage work. The musical was called Battling Buttler, by Walter L. Rosemont and Ballard MacDonald, and starred Charlie Ruggles on Broadway. It ran from October 8, 1923 to July 5, 1924.[1] The New York Times noted the difference in the spelling of the name of the central character between the stage and film versions.[2]

Cast

References


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